The famous phrase "looks may be deceiving" strongly pertains to Helena Viramontes's short story, "The Moths." The story, instead of focusing the creatures in the title, is actually about a young girl who comes of age as she is faced with the deterioration and death of her grandmother. Even though the title, "The Moths," seems to have no relevance at the beginning, these creatures help to portray a sense of spirituality, rebirth, and become, finally, an incarnation of the grandmother. The relationship between the moths and the main characters aids in conveying the main theme of the story, which is not simply the death of a loved one, but a spiritual and maturing experience undergone by the grandchild.
The moths help illustrate a sense of spirituality in this short story. Abuelita, the grandmother, uses old remedies which stem from a religious/spiritual nature to cure physical illnesses such as scarlet fever and other infirmities. Her granddaughter is very disrespectful and doubtful of the medicines which her grandmother used, but they always work. The granddaughter tells us that "Abuelita made a balm out of dried moth wings . . . [to] shape my hands back to size" (Viramontes 1239). In this way the granddaughter begins to accept the spiritual belief and hope.
The spirituality is not only present in the moth wing balm, but is also evident after the death of her grandmother. A sense of spirituality is apparent in the quote, "Then the moths came. Small gray ones that came from her soul and out through her mouth fluttering to light" (1242). This presents a religious parallel in which the light resembles heaven. These moths represent angels who are carrying Abuelit...
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...esses the grandchild?s comfort when she is at her grandmother?s house (1239). Abuelita is her grandchild?s guardian angel or moth?she shows her the light. She cures her illnesses, instills values in her, and brings religion into her life. She is the reason that the grandchild undergoes such spiritual and emotional maturation.
It is clearly apparent that "The Moths" is not only the title, but also an important piece of the story which embodies its central theme. The moths become the catalyst that gives identity to the grandmother and her granddaughter, bringing revelation, security, rebirth, and the desire to be reunited. The grandmother, in becoming a moth herself, leaves some of herself behind with her grandchild.
Viramontes, Helena. "The Moths." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 1239- 1242.
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